• Top 10 Best Language Apps for Travel to Find Online 2019 1
  • Top 10 Best Language Apps for Travel to Find Online 2019 2
  • Top 10 Best Language Apps for Travel to Find Online 2019 3
  • Top 10 Best Language Apps for Travel to Find Online 2019 4
  • Top 10 Best Language Apps for Travel to Find Online 2019 5

Top 10 Best Language Apps for Travel to Find Online 2019

One of the hardest parts about traveling is the language barrier. As English speakers, we’re incredibly lucky that so many people around the world can communicate with us, but we can’t assume that knowing English will be enough. Luckily, there are a bunch of smartphone apps that make bridging the language gap a little bit easier.

Picking the right one, however, isn’t quite so easy. Different apps cater to different needs, and if you don’t know what to look for, you could end up trying a dozen before finding the right one. In this guide, we’ll go over the factors you should consider when choosing the app for you. At the end, we’ve also got a list of our favorites to help you get started on your search.
  • Last updated: 10-24-2019
  • 39 views
Table of Contents

How to Choose a Language App for Travel – Buying Guide

When choosing an app, don’t forget that having a ton of extra features doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice for you. Always consider what you need first.

Ensure Your Target Language Is Supported

Ensure Your Target Language Is Supported
This should go without saying, but the first thing you should do is check to see if the app you want to use supports the language of the country you’re visiting. That being said, it might be good to double check exactly what the country’s main language is and also the language of the specific region you’re visiting.
Remember, Brazil speaks Portuguese and not Spanish, and even though Mandarin is used throughout China, in different places you might find that you need to use other dialects like Cantonese or Hokkien.

Pick a Type Based on Your Situation, Confidence, and Time to Prepare

There are three main types of language apps for travel: translation, phrasebook, and learning apps. Which one will be best for you depends largely on your travel style, so think realistically about the situations you might be in.

Translation Apps Are the Fastest and Most Convenient

Translation Apps Are the Fastest and Most Convenient
For on-the-go translation that doesn’t require a lot of know-how, translation apps are your best bet. They allow you to easily move between two languages without any real prior knowledge. Some translation apps work with written input where you type in one language and it’ll come out in another.
Others can also handle spoken input, which will allow you to translate conversations in almost real-time. Translation apps are great not just for your typical travel phrases but also for situations that might come up involving speech that other travel-related language apps aren’t prepared for.
Just note that if you have an app that produces written output but the literacy rate in the country you’re visiting is low, you might still need to read it aloud to the other person. So if it’s an alphabet that you’re not familiar with, be sure that the app also provides you with a transliteration that you can read.

Phrasebook Apps Give You the Need-to-Knows and Make You Look Like You’re Trying

Phrasebook Apps Give You the Need-to-Knows and Make You Look Like You’re Trying
Like the travel phrasebooks of old, phrasebook apps provide you with a number of words, phrases, and sentences that you’re likely to use when traveling. Phrase apps are great if you’ll only need a fairly limited vocabulary and want to try your hand at speaking the local language. In many places, locals are thrilled to hear tourists trying, even if it’s just “thank you” or “where is the restroom?”
For the best phrase app possible, look for one that splits phrases into categories or has a search function so that you can quickly and easily find what you’re looking for. It’s also really helpful if the app has audio so that you know how the phrases are pronounced.

Learning Apps Take Some Time but Help You Talk with Locals

Learning Apps Take Some Time but Help You Talk with Locals
If you’re intent on making friends and communicating with the local community, it’s best to learn a little more about the language and grammar aside from just direct translations and travel words.
Naturally, this can take several weeks or months of preparation, but it can be worth it if you’ll be visiting for more than a couple weeks or traveling solo. Just be sure that the app that you choose is practical and focuses on speaking.

Can’t Read the Writing? Look for Apps That Use Photo Readers or AR

Can’t Read the Writing? Look for Apps That Use Photo Readers or AR
If you’re visiting a country that uses the same alphabet English does, it’s easy enough to do a quick search for unfamiliar words. But if the alphabet is completely different, and you have no idea how to even pronounce the word, let alone type it, it really helps to have an app that can translate without that extra step.
Luckily, there are several apps that allow you to either take a picture of the writing or just hold your phone up to it, and it’ll tell you what it means. One of the places that you’ll likely need this the most is restaurants, but it’s important to note that food translations often don’t make sense and may not tell you exactly what’s in the dish.
So if you have allergies or restrictions, it’s always best to ask directly (via a translation app or predetermined phrase).

If You Don’t Have Data, Offline Availability Is Critical

If You Don’t Have Data, Offline Availability Is Critical
Depending on whether you’ve decided to pay for international roaming or rent a portable wifi router or foreign SIM card, you may or may not have reliable data throughout your trip. Even if you have, there will still likely be times where coverage is spotty.
If you want to be able to communicate (relatively) effectively even without internet, it’s important that the app you’re using has offline availability that allows you to download everything you need ahead of time.

Top 10 Best Language Apps for Travel to Find Online

Now that you know what to look for, here are a few of our favorites. Some of these combine two or more different types and make useful all-in-one resources.
LanguagesMandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean
TypeTranslation
Photo ReaderYes
Offline AvailabilityYes
Languages150+
TypeLearning
Photo ReaderNo
Offline AvailabilityNo
Languages117 (text), 54 (speech)
TypeTranslation
Photo ReaderNo
Offline AvailabilityYes, for 10 languages with subscription
Languages100+
TypeTranslation, phrasebook
Photo ReaderYes, with subscription
Offline AvailabilityYes, with subscription
LanguagesSpanish, German, French, Italian, English, Russia, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Brazilian Portuguese, Arabic, and Polish
TypeLearning
Photo ReaderNo
Offline AvailabilityYes
Languages90+
TypeTranslation
Photo ReaderNo
Offline AvailabilityNo
Languages60+
TypeTranslation, phrasebook
Photo ReaderYes
Offline AvailabilityYes
Languages103
TypeTranslation
Photo ReaderYes
Offline AvailabilityYes, for 59 languages
LanguagesSpanish, French, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Polish, English, Indonesian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian
TypeLearning
Photo ReaderNo
Offline AvailabilityNo
Languages42
TypeTranslation, phrases, learning
Photo ReaderYes
Offline AvailabilityYes, limited functionality

Summary

In the end, the best app is one that you’ll actually use. So explore any free trials thoroughly and think about the situations you might be in before making a commitment to a subscription.
By Jacqueline Oshiro

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